LibLink: Stephen Tall: The agony of the Tory modernisers

In his latest column on Conservative Home, Stephen Tall feels the pain of those who wanted a modern, inclusive Conservative Party. When they had their way, the Tories actually did quite well. When the nasty lot take hold, their poll ratings plummet and they don’t appeal beyond their hardcore supporters. And that’s not enough to win a general election, especially when the Liberal Democrats are keen to woo those who would once have been called the “wets.”

I’ve written here before about the Lib Dems’ 17.5 per cent strategy, the optimistic end of the party’s share-of-the-vote forecast for 2015. To our steady-state ten per cent, my party hopes to persuade up to half of the 15 per cent of the public who don’t currently support us but will consider voting for us: five per cent of them are Conservative supporters. They are the liberal Conservativeswho are in favour of the UK’s membership of the European Union – and who are also pro-green and believe the government has a vital role to play in boosting renewables.

Every time David Cameron tries to stick his finger in the dam to staunch the flow of little Englander Tories to UKIP, he risks opening up a new hole leaking progressive Conservatives to the Lib Dems.

So I can understand the Tory modernisers’ anguish. After all, they’ve been here before. John Major, William Hague, Michael Howard, David Cameron – all promised to win over new converts, all ended up preaching to the choir. And still no sign of the promised land: an outright majority.

We’re approaching the season of goodwill, so please – those authentic modernisers still left – accept my sympathies… Even as your choir joins in the familiar hymn, “O Come All Ye 35 per cent Of The Faithful, Joyful But Not Triumphant.”

The comments, as ever on Conservative Home, are instructive about current Conservative thinking. And hilarious. My colleagues at LDV Towers will have great fun teasing him about being called a “watermelon socialist.”

You can read the whole article here.

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16 Comments

  • I just had a classic exchange with a former Lib Dem voter on CiF about the cost of living crisis. I said:

    “The underlying problem is that skill levels at the lower end of our workforce are so poor that they are being elbowed out of the jobs market by more skilled workers from elsewhere. We are also locked into a low productivity economy that is dependent on low wages to survive.
    The Liberal Democrats have insisted on measures like increased investment in apprenticeships, pupil premium, regional, infrastructure and green investment etc. that will help increase productivity and also cut taxes for the lower paid.”

    And s/he said:

    “I voted lib dem in the last 2 elections and feel pretty betrayed by them currently as im sure most do and despite any good ideas they may currently have they have zero chance of winning.”

    DOH! I dont beleeeive it! Until we can actually get to the point that people realise we are in government and doing important, significant, constructive things that could actually help solve the UK’s problems, we don’t stand a chance.

    The simple fact is, a large slice of our 2010 voters have never been told anything positive about us, only the few, hostile stories they’ve picked up from the media.

  • ” To our steady-state ten per cent, my party hopes to persuade up to half of the 15 per cent of the public who don’t currently support us but will consider voting for us: five per cent of them are Conservative supporters.

    Every time David Cameron tries to stick his finger in the dam to staunch the flow of little Englander Tories to UKIP, he risks opening up a new hole leaking progressive Conservatives to the Lib Dems.”

    It would be a mistake to assume that the Lib Dems don’t have a similar problem, and to take the current 10% support for granted. If the party moves further to the right and succeeds in attracting – say – half of those 5% of Tory potential supporters, it could quite easily lose an equal number of the 10% it currently has, and could further alienate the other 10% of the 15% it is trying to target.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Dec '13 - 7:47pm

    And how do we solve that problem other than go and tell them. Lots of vested interests are lining up against us. We have to be clever about it. I think by and large Ryan Coetzee has the right strategy but the activists don’t always buy it.

  • The comments on conservative home are more revealing of UKIPs thinking than the Tory party these days.

  • The Tory modernisers have tried and failed. The 2015 manifesto will be an interesting one – how are they going to get large chunks of their party to sign up to a repeat of the 2010 attempt to make them look green, progressive and cuddly? The veneer will not just be wearing thin, it will be falling off in large chunks.

    The only mystery is why, according to the polls, there are around 10-15% of 2010 Lib Dems who now support the Tories. If we can get them back, plus the 20-25% of our vote who have gone to Don’t Know and the 5% who have gone to the Greens, then 16-17% of the vote is not an impossible task. And that is not counting any returning defectors from Labour,

  • “The only mystery is why, according to the polls, there are around 10-15% of 2010 Lib Dems who now support the Tories. If we can get them back, plus the 20-25% of our vote who have gone to Don’t Know and the 5% who have gone to the Greens, then 16-17% of the vote is not an impossible task.”

    Well, the Lib Dem poll rating has remained remarkable stable at its current level for more than 3 years now. The question is what would make it increase by 60-70% over the next 17 months, Certainly it’s not going to happen spontaneously.

  • @RC, because they want to vote in support of the current government and find the Lib Dems to be more ambiguous about it than the Tories? This is always the curse of the junior coalition partner. Or possibly they were in a same-sex relationship which is less likely to influence their voting in 2015 than 2010?

  • Michael Parsons 9th Dec '13 - 11:04am

    RC
    Tory modernisers? That used to be called Butskellism, was rejected resoundingly in the past by the Tories and is rejected now. The British oligarchy wants to remain firmly in the saddle regardless of public costs; the end is fixed and their only discussion is about the means, like pretending successfully that privatisation to a “public” limited company somehow means the people are in control. The basic aim is to get a rake-off from everything we need – water, health, education, energy, even burial, prisons and cremation (remember Ladfy Porter’s scandalous sell-off of graveyards?) Never believe them, never fear them, and never ask them for anything.

  • Frank Booth 9th Dec '13 - 1:18pm

    I can just about understand the decision for the Libs to go into coalition with the Tories in 2010. After all the ‘modernisers’ appeared to be in control of the Tory party. But after the last 4 years and with Lynton Crosby in charge of their electoral strategy? I can’t see how the parties can work together again. It’s all very well to talk about showing that ‘coalition can work’ but it generally works if you are in government with people you have something in common with. These are two totally different parties and the Lib Dems would be better off finding another partner who share many of their views on fairness, the environment, EU participation et all. Gasp …. Labour aren’t actually that bad, are they (all things considered).

  • Michael Cole 9th Dec '13 - 3:14pm

    @ Frank Booth; “Labour aren’t actually that bad, are they (all things considered).”

    Do me a favour ! The pain and cuts that we are experiencing now are the result of 13 years of disastrous Labour government. Ed Balls is clueless when it comes to running successful economy. Labour is cynically complaining about the cuts and dodges the hard choices which have to be made.

    I dislike Tory arrogance as much as the next person but we are in coalition for the sake of stable government. At present we are paying the electoral price for that. Only when Labour decides to live in the real world (and I don’t see this happening anytime soon) should we consider them as coalition partners.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '13 - 4:10pm

    @Caron Lindsey.
    I am not part of a vested interest and I can only speak for myself. I am one of the ‘none of the above’ group’ who has in the past voted Liberal democrat.

    As such , it is probably impertinent of me to say so, but I think that you are wrong. After reading your post , I looked up Ryan Coetzee and the sort of strategy that he hopes to promote. I think that any attempt to ‘educate’ the ‘don’t knows’ on the current Liberal leadership’s record in government is doomed to failure. It won’t negate the public memory of your pledge on student fees , nor what you have allowed.

    There seems to be some great elevation of focus groups, triangulation and the ‘centre ground’ in politics , but within my social group, which is of course self selected, there is a desire for a party that says what it believes in, and when elected, pursues those goals vigorously.

    I can detect the ‘fire of principle in the belly’, of some of your posters, I admire it, I know plenty of others who admire it, that is why we would vote for them to be our local councillors, but it seems to me that coalition has become an excuse, coulda, woulda, shoulda.

    Again, I can only speak for myself when I say that many of us are not lacking in knowledge of what the Liberal Democrats have done whilst in coalition, even though my husband and friends think it bit weird that I should start to follow politics so closely at my age. The reason being that I want to know exactly what sort of party I shall give my support to in future, its principles and ideology. These are the things that need clarifying, not what you have achieved in government , which is all too obvious to me..

  • Tory modernisers ??? Contradiction in terms.

    Some people in the Westminster Bubble might have been fooled by the Public Relations eye-wash that Cameron and chums doled. All that expensive film coverage of Cameron with huskies, all those slogans abut Blue being the same as Green, were cynical and calculated attempts to hoodwink. The Conservative leopard was not changing its spots, it was just hiding them with a layer of Green Crap.
    If Stephen Tall spent a bit less time with his friends at Conservative Home and less time with those high-salaried media types at the BBC perhaps the scales would fall from his eyes as well.

    The clue is in the name of their party – “Conservative”.
    There is no dictionary that will define that word as “moderniser”.
    If you need another clue – just count the number of Old Etonians on the Conservative front bench.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Dec '13 - 6:21pm

    @Caron Lindsay:

    ” I think by and large Ryan Coetzee has the right strategy but the activists don’t always buy it.”

    I think that Ryan Coetze’s analysis (when received directly, un-mediated) is often excellent. I think that those within the party who decide to present their own mis-shapen meanderings as ‘Ryan Coetzee’s’ deserve the fate which will doubtless befall them.

  • A Social Liberal 9th Dec '13 - 6:51pm

    Why on earth is a Lib Dem writing for a Tory propaganda blog?

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Dec '13 - 9:00pm

    @ Michael Cole
    I actually think that Labour did some good things as well as some bad things. The introduction of the minimum wage and the introduction of Sure Start centres, for example.

    I have heard your leaders blaming Labour for the cuts and pain that we are currently experiencing, and many other things besides. After all the criticism that they have levelled at them, they wouldn’t swallow their principles and consider entering into a coalition with them, would they?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Dec '13 - 9:50am

    RC

    DOH! I dont beleeeive it! Until we can actually get to the point that people realise we are in government and doing important, significant, constructive things that could actually help solve the UK’s problems, we don’t stand a chance

    Er, what you propose IS the strategy that has been pursued by our leadership since the coalition was formed. Going on and on about being “in government” and boasting about how wonderful it is.

    Look, RC, that strategy HAS NOT WORKED!!!

    Why can’t people like you see that? Why can’t you see that strategy has been the prime cause of former supporters moving away from us?

    The REALITY is that what we have is a largely Tory government. I appreciate that for the sake of making sure there was a stable government and accepting the voters’ choice in 2010 and confirmed in 2011 when by two-to-one they voted in favour of the electoral system whose distortion gave us this Tory-dominated government, we had to go into the coalition. But we should have made CLEAR from the start that due to the distortions of the electoral system our influence on it would be limited, with just one sixth of its MPs.

    People KNOW we are “in government”. That is why they hate us. Because they hold us EQUALLY responsible for what this predominantly Tory government is doing, even though due to the balance of the parties it is FAR more Tory than LibDem. The reason they hold us equally responsible, and so assume we have dropped all our principles and policies and become “me-too”s to the Tories IS all this boasting about being “in government” you say we should be doing more of. More than that, this boasting makes us look as if having these junior government roles was all we really wanted, looking so proud and pleased with ourselves for having a few ministers with all the pay that goes with those jobs while the rest of the country suffers. Or, as so many of our former supporters are saying, “Look at those LibDems, typical politicians, all they wanted was power, they would say anything to get it, and drop all their principles and forget their promises once they have it”.

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